Free or Not Free. That is the Question. Or is it?

Blogs are an easy way to get your voice out onto the Net. For the Web-It-Yourselfer, custom blogs are a great way to learn about web technologies and create something from the ground up. The best blog software happens to also be free blog software: WordPress.

WordPress really made its inroads among the blogging community when MovableType moved to a pay structure. I do not fault MT for moving to a pay structure, nor criticize them for it. There is still a free version of MT. However, I recommended WordPress version 1.5 over MT for other reasons.

PHP Blog Software –

I wanted to get a little more hands on with PHP, so I switched over to WordPress so I could gain more PHP exposure. Though one can incorporate PHP with a MT website, MT’s command structure places a layer between the developer and the actual code. Whereas in WordPress the code is a lot more transparent. All functions are written in PHP. All template tags are written in PHP.

Support –

There is a large and growing WordPress community that is ready and willing to help you and help improve the software. I have been able to get answers to 9 out of 10 questions when I research the WordPress Support Forum or from the WordPress Codex. No support is perfect, but so far I have been happy.

Links –

Managing a list of Links in WordPress is incredibly easy. There is a built in Links Manager that maintains all the links that you want to capture in list/menu form. All the links on this site that are in the Utility Menu, Main Menu, and Side Panel are all maintained by the Links Manager.

Pages –

If you are familiar with blogs, you know that an entry in a blog is commonly known as a post. WordPress has taken posts one step further and allowed them to be their own page. This very article is a Page within WordPress. All the articles in the menu to the left are Pages. The great thing about this is that they all use the same template. You enter the content of the page, assign a template which you create and wha-la, you have a dynamically created web page. The content is maintained inside the WordPress mySQL database, the template is a very basic php page with appropriate WordPress code, and your style sheet controls the presentation. Slick.

Content Management System –

WordPress is essentially the Content Management System for this site. Every element is controlled via WordPress. Like mentioned above, all menu links are within WordPress, all Page articles are within WordPress. Even the little gray box on each content page is its own seperate “Page” that is included within the structure of the article template. The code for the Newsletter signup form is its own page that is simply included within the side panel menu. If I make a change to the menu, add a new article, etc., I do it once, and the menu is changed throughout the site. It makes maintaining the site easy. Now it did take some thought to figure out what was the best way to accomplish it. I am still tweaking it here and there, but you can’t beat free content management software that gets the job done!!

Easy Customization –

This site is customized above and beyond just changing the main WordPress theme files. With the flexibility of the Page feature and being coded in PHP, the sky is the limit as to the customizations that one can accomplish. WordPress Plugins offer additional customization. This site employs several in order to accomplish certain tasks. The Side Menu on the Home page uses a plugin that shows the five most current posts from the blog page, plus from two additional blogs. I plan to write more about the customization made to this site at a later time. Just note that it can be done!

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